Our house can get pretty crazy when it comes to hyper and bored dogs! We have two of our own dogs, and usually have a third foster dog that joins us. Most of the time we have a foster puppy (under six months), and our two are both young (Jack is a year and a half, and Bolt just turned a year old).
With puppies and young dogs they need constant exercise and entertainment, otherwise my house is destroyed. Chewing furniture, tearing up kids toys or general rough play between the three happens otherwise. I’ve always read a tired dog is a good dog. Heck, Cesar the Dog Whisperer made a career on “Calm Submissive” and “Exercise Obedience”.
After some trial and error, plus talking with other foster dog families and friends we’ve found six key ways to keeping our dogs exercised and entertained. These tips help keep my house in order, and help keep the dogs out of trouble.
- Daily Walks – Each day I get outside and walk all three dogs. I aim for a thirty-minute walk each day. I have a tandem leash that I can hook two dogs up together, which allows me to have only two leashes for the three dogs. If the kids are in school I take the opportunity to walk the dogs to the bus stop. Sometimes I have to break this up into two walks, one to the bus stop in the morning and one to pick the kids up in the afternoon. During the summer I go in the morning when it’s nice and cool. We do walk the dogs in the winter. I have a sweatshirt for each dog, and unless there’s ice on the ground, or the temperatures are below freezing, we walk.
- Commands – Each day I take a handful of training treats and work with all three dogs on their basic commands. Our two dogs know them well, but sometimes our foster pups don’t know any commands. This is a great way to help the new puppies before they go to their forever homes. With dogs that know commands, repeating them helps the dogs learn focus and also reminds them of their manners… Jack still needs to learn manners… everyday :).
- Fetch – Tried and true, dogs have been playing fetch for decades. Not all dogs have a retrieving mentality or prey drive, but I can assure you they all like to run! Jack, our beagle has a huge prey drive and takes fetch very seriously. He is the first to run after the ball, and is zeroed in on it every time. Bolt, our Heinz 57 Mutt could care less about fetch. Most of the time he only tries to keep it away from Jack, never actually fetching. I usually toss the ball straight up in the air with Bolt so he has the chance to catch the ball and run around the yard in victory LOL. Either way, a good ten to fifteen minutes of fetch is all you need to wear your pup out. During the winter or rain, I use a soft indoor fetch ball (Chuckit! Indoor Ball works best). I throw the ball from room to room or down the steps so the dogs are still running and still playing even when we can’t go outside.
- Set a Schedule – I’ve found repetition is the key to quiet time. In the evenings we put the kids to bed around 8pm and my husband and I enjoy some quiet time. We’ve set this schedule with our dogs from day one. Our two boys know when the kids go upstairs they need to “Find a Spot”, this is the command we use for going to their dog beds. We don’t have to use the verbal command any longer; they now know when the kids go up to bed, it’s quiet time. With the foster dogs we need to teach them this command. I usually place a towel on the floor near the dog beds and point to the towel saying “Spot”. Once the dog goes to the towel, you give them a treat. After repeating the command each time they get up, you give them a treat. They also see the other dogs do this, and learn by example as well.
- Frozen Kong – Each morning I find the Kongs and fill them with peanut butter and small treats. Once they are filled to the brim (5-6 small treats and about 2 tablespoons of peanut butter) I freeze them. In the evening, during quiet time we take the Kongs out and each dog gets one. When frozen it keeps our dogs occupied for about an hour. After they have licked all the goodies out, they are usually ready for bed!
- Toys – We have a ton of toys lying around the house and available for the dogs to play. I like the Nylabone brand best, they last a long time. For the length of time you get out of one (two to three months), they are relatively inexpensive! I generally have two Nylabones, as well as a rope toy and a couple tennis balls lying around per dog.
The formula for us to keep our dogs’ obedient and low key is exercise and rewards! We make sure they get about an hour of exercise, spread throughout the day. After a long day they enjoy some quiet time while also enjoying a reward. This is also the time they get one on one time with my husband and I. We make sure to pet each dog, sometimes allowing him or her on the couch, and just enjoying some relaxation.